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MotherwellMotherwell
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2
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3
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The only way is up - McCall

MotherwellMotherwell
St MirrenSt Mirren
1
0
FT
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Stuart McCall is targeting more highs with Motherwell this season as he brushed aside predictions that the Fir Park bubble will burst.

McCall has led Motherwell to a Scottish Cup final and three top-three finishes in his three and a half years in charge but finds his team written off most summers.

That was the case last year after McCall lost most of his first team but they set a new post-war points record in securing a second consecutive runners-up spot with a last-gasp win at Aberdeen.

This summer McCall lost three more players in James McFadden, Henri Anier and Shaun Hutchinson, and more prophets of doom emerged after their Europa League defeat to Icelandic side Stjarnan, who subsequently set up a play-off against Inter Milan thanks to a 1-0 aggregate win over Lech Poznan.

Motherwell go into their Scottish Premiership opener against St Mirren with the prospect of having their entire back four out injured, but McCall is ignoring the predictions and only looking to continue the enjoyment that has kept him at Fir Park despite offers from elsewhere.

McCall said: "People always say 'what can you do next? You have been there a long while'. You only have to look back at the last minute of last season. That's what I'm in football for.

"All right, we didn't win a trophy or do anything outstandingly spectacular, but the enjoyment for the group of players that had produced what they had to get to 70 points and finish second, that's why we're in the game.

"There will be challenges, there will be ups and downs. There's no doubt, just like we did last year, we'll have some massive blips and bad results and fans will say they're not going back again.

"If we can maintain the consistency and keep bouncing back, then that's what we'll try to do."

The former Scotland international added: "I don't listen to websites or forums or phone-ins, so whoever is writing us off, that's fine. We are two games into our season.

"We were written off last season. Even a minority of our own fans wrote us off when we got knocked out the cup by Albion Rovers and got beat 5-0 at home by Celtic. And rightly so.

With two unnamed defenders definitely out, McCall also has problems in midfield with Iain Vigurs suspended and Paul Lawson still working his way back from Achilles surgery.

"I always like to name the team Friday but we won't be naming it until quarter to two on Saturday," he said. "But we've had that before and ended up putting in great performances. So it's not a worry, it's just frustrating at times."

Jeroen Tesselaar revealed good memories of playing for St Mirren underpinned his decision to return to the Paisley club this summer.

The 25-year-old Dutch left-back joined the Buddies in 2011 after failing to make the grade at AZ Alkmaar and had an enjoyable season before leaving for Kilmarnock.

After two years at Rugby Park Tesselaar opted for a return to the Buddies and speaking ahead of the trip to Motherwell for the Scottish Premiership opener on Saturday, he claimed the lure of familiar surroundings was an obvious factor in his decision.

"It is a move but I have come back to St Mirren, so it feels very good," he said.

"It is a good group, good friends, a good pitch so I am looking forward to it.

"I looked at my options and I decided to come back here as I really enjoyed my first year in Scotland at St Mirren.

"I like the way they try to play football and that suits me.

"There are a couple of new boys in the dressing room but also a lot of the same faces."

While glad to be back at the Paisley club, Tesselaar, however, refused to reveal the target set by the St Mirren dressing room under new manager Tommy Craig, who took over from Danny Lennon at the end of last season.

"It is always about winning as many games as you can," he said.

"That is the same this season.

"We will keep the target in the dressing room, but we want to finish as high as possible.

"It is always close in the Premiership.

"You can finish second, you can finish 11th, it depends on your season.

"You need a little bit of luck."

Saints striker Steven Thompson will miss out at Fir Park. The 35-year-old has a groin strain which manager Tommy Craig believes will keep him out for at least another couple of weeks.

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